TAMPA, Fla. - The volunteers of Metropolitan Ministries are part of a system that runs like a well-oiled machine. This year, they expect to work twice as hard.
The CEO of Metropolitan Ministries says, because of the pandemic, the need has nearly doubled.
"Over 40% of the people who have signed up for our help have never asked for our help before,” said Tim Marks.
Monday, volunteers were working on sorting donations and making boxes of food and necessities for families in need. Marks says some of the most difficult food items to find are stuffing and yams.
“And obviously all of our families get a turkey, as well,” Marks said. “But cereal [and] stuffings are also really important items for us. We want to provide enough food to get through a couple of days for these families.”
Pre-packaged boxes are new this year. They're being sent out to families who can't come directly to the tent. In previous years, the boxes were provided to a few partner organizations.
“We have seen home-bound families that couldn’t get out shopping because it was a risk to their health, or they were COVID-positive and they were quarantined,” Marks said.
Though some of the work is still hands-on, much of the services have moved online.
“Donors today can go to any food outlet, we have gift registries at those outlets and they can shop for food and have it shipped right here to our tent,” Marks said. “That’s one way people can get involved and help support a family without ever leaving their home.”
The Salvation Army is adapting to the pandemic too - transitioning part of their Red Kettle campaign to a virtual one.
But you'll still see the kettles around, just not as many.
“During this time of COVID, we still are permitted to have the Christmas kettles out there, and today begins that process,” said Major Ted Morris, the director of North Pinellas County’s Salvation Army.
The non-profit says they've seen a 200-percent increase in requests for support.
“This year is so much more important,” Morris said. “The Salvation Army wants to rescue Christmas from people who are hurting. We’ve given out more than half a million dollars’ worth of food the past few months, and this will help us to continue that.”
They're hoping a twist on the tradition, will give them the boost they need.